How is sarcoma diagnosed?


If you have symptoms, a doctor may use several tests to see if you have sarcoma.  

Physical examination and medical history

A doctor will check your body to look for lumps and other signs of cancer. They will also ask you about your past medical history. 

Imaging tests

Depending on where the tumour might be in your body, you may have X-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), ultrasound, positron emission tomography (PET) scans or bone scans.  

For gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GIST), you may have an endoscopy. This uses a thin tube (called an endoscope) with a light and camera on it to look at the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. Some endoscopes can also use ultrasound to get a more detailed picture (called an endoscopic ultrasound or EUS). 


A biopsy is when the doctor takes a sample of tissue to look at under a microscope and do laboratory tests for signs of abnormal cells.  


The stage of a cancer is a term used to describe its size and whether it has spread beyond its original area of the body. 

Knowing the type of cancer and the stage helps doctors to decide on the most appropriate treatment. 

After sarcoma has been diagnosed, other tests may be done to stage the tumour. These may include imaging tests and biopsies, as well as testing of blood samples and bone marrow samples (for bone sarcomas). 

Different types of sarcoma use different staging systems:  

  • adult soft tissue sarcomas are categorised as Stage 1, 2, 3 or 4[1] 
  • Ewing sarcoma and bone sarcoma are categorised as localised, metastatic or recurrent[2] 
  • gastrointestinal stromal tumours (GIST) are categorised as resectable (able to be removed with surgery), unresectable, metastatic and recurrent, or refractory (not responding to treatment).[3]